FIFA Ranking (Apr 10): 8
Previous Appearances: 12 (1950, 1954, 1958, 1962, 1966, 1970, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1998, 2002, 2006)
Football's creators didn't deem the World Cup a worthy enterprise before the Second World War and thus, what was a fairly advanced England side for its time didn't give itself a chance to pip Uruguay or Italy to the trophy. Ever since, England have made it to 12 of the 15 World Cups, but beyond the solitary victory in 1966, have only made it past the quarter-finals once, in 1990. A team of famous players, historically unable to adapt to the challenges posed by foreign territory and big-game tactical pressure.
How They Qualified
Fabio Capello, a tactical and disciplinary Don presiding over his adopted Lions, has brought about a steeliness in this England side that resulted in seamless qualification. There were to be no upsets, as Capello oversaw an unprecedented winning streak throughout qualification, losing only the penultimate game once England's World Cup place was already sealed. England were not spectacular like Spain, but certainly their consistency and strength can be compared to Chelsea at club level.
Tactics. England haven't got a wealth of outstanding players in any single department, but have leaders in a few areas and an impressive tactical approach built around these key players. This is not a team that will get caught on the counter-attack very often, or fail to make their pressure pay when they are on the front foot. They get the best out of their best, which is why they are always a threat.
Worryingly, England have minor weaknesses in every area. However, what has been found to be a big weakness against better teams, albeit in friendlies, is that England struggle to create and control - either on the front foot or the back - against the best sides. France, Spain and Brazil in particular all stifled Capello's England, and though there were some shaky moments at the back, and there are question marks over the No. 9 and the goalkeeper, the only consistently disappointing and costly element of England's team so far has been the failure to produce moments of magic when they are needed, or at very least control the opposition.
Fabio Capello will be remembered as one of the greatest coaches of all time. His record is practically second to none. Every project he has taken on has resulted in major silverware. He oversaw the Invincibles at Milan, twice brought Real Madrid La Liga, turned Roma into champions and oversaw an incredible Juventus side as well. This is his first stint with a national team and widely thought to be the last job he will take before retirement. His strength has always been leagues rather than cups, but he, despite not being an Englishman, will want this victory in South Africa as much as all of his players.
John Terry (Chelsea)
Many have said that Rio Ferdinand is a better defender than his England team-mate, but much depends on the man recently replaced as captain. Terry's form has been patchy this season but he ended it well and by lifting the Premier League title. There is a new found determination to succeed and it could serve JT well.
Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)
So many question marks were raised when Fabio Capello elected to give Gerrard a starting position on the left of midfield, but this free role has come to suit the Liverpool icon as much as any other, as his performances have regularly been superb and his impact on England's attacking play almost relentless. Always capable of winning big games with big goals.
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
Even Sven-Goran Eriksson loved Rooney enough to call him the golden boy. Capello, too, has built his team around Rooney being at his best, which has been the case in a significant majority of England's recent internationals. Capello compared the United forward to Spain's great, Raul, and clearly believes that it will take his fighting determination, boundless energy, understated skill, and crucially, his finishing touch to see England all the way to the final in 2010.
Best Footballing Moment
Without question, beating Argentina and then West Germany to win their first and as yet only World Cup on home soil in 1966.
Off The Pitch
Famous for: Being increasingly yet almost reluctantly cosmopolitan, both unapologetically rude and inexplicably polite depending on the situation, and binge drinking. And the Queen.
Most likely to: Make enemies of rival fans, be overhyped and underachieve.
World Cup Objective
It's Capello, it's a favourable climate, it's probably the last chance for most of this 'golden era' while they're still at their best. They have to win it.